September 7, 2018

Creating a college-to-utility employment pipeline

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (second from left) and other officials visited Gateway Community College last week to learn how educators there and at Southern Connecticut State University are working with state utilities to create a school-to-utility employment pipeline.

Nearly 40 percent of the half-million or so public-utility workers in the United States will become eligible for retirement over the next five years. At the New Haven-based Regional Water Authority (RWA), that figure is closer to 50 percent.

That's why educators from Southern Connecticut State University and Gateway Community College are working with the RWA and other Connecticut utilities to develop a school-to-utility employment pipeline to ensure that a new generation of utility workers is trained and prepared to fill the jobs left by retiring workers.

"Public utilities face a potential watershed in the shortage of young people applying to take the place of our aging and retiring workforce," said Larry Bingaman, the RWA's president and CEO. "It is this challenge that led to a unique partnership creating the public utility management degree programs at GCC and SCSU. Their success will allow the RWA and other utilities to continue delivering our life-sustaining products and services for generations to come."

Students can commence coursework in public utility management at GCC, where they can attain an associate degree in two years. Following that, students can choose to transfer to SCSU to complete a BS degree in public utility management. Both degree programs offer an array of courses designed to prepare students for work with a utility.

Course subjects include environmental sustainability, financial accounting, asset and infrastructure management and other subjects related to work in the public utilities sector. Students graduating from these programs will be equipped to fill managerial and technical job openings at the RWA and other utilities. The RWA and other utilities are also offering internships to students in these programs.

Utilities are major employers in Connecticut and nationwide. Presently, utilities account for approximately 10 percent of all job openings in Connecticut, and represent one to two percent of total employment in metropolitan and rural areas of the U.S. The state's Department of Labor estimates there are about 5,000 workers employed by a utility in Connecticut.

Reach Michael C. Bingham at mbingham@newhavenbiz.com

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